Baby it's time for fireworks! Light up the grill, watch the night sky and don't forget to protect your ears – the Fourth of July is one of America's most raucous and cacophonous holidays, and this year's crop of celebratory revels are next-level.
From monumental events, big-city barges to wild-west rodeos, here are the best places to rock your Fourth.
Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
A Fourth of July celebration with no fireworks? For many, that is a welcome alternative given the stream of violently explosive sounds that accompany the tradition. For those averse to the intensity of pyrotechnic displays, consider visiting Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota for a Fourth of July experience like no other. Want to shake hands with the presidents? Re-enactors will be on hand portraying the four presidents on the sculpture (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt). On July 3, the re-enactors will stage a press conference in the Carvers’ Marketplace. And yes, you can even ask a question.
Over July 3 and 4, the faux former presidents will be on hand to mix and mingle with visitors and sign autographs. There will also be live performances from Native storyteller and flautist Sequoia Crosswhite and Native storyteller Darrell Red Cloud.
On both nights at 9pm, enjoy the traditional sculpture lighting ceremony from the park's amphitheater, accompanied by more music and performances. Note that while accessing the park is free, it costs $10 to park.
New York City, New York
The home of Lady Liberty goes all out for America's birthday with events scattered around NYC's five boroughs. In Brooklyn, the nation's bravest bellies gather at Coney Island for Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog-Eating Contest, followed by a Cyclones baseball game and an evening fireworks show. In Staten Island, the tiny town of Travis dons stars and stripes for a historic parade dating back to 1911.
But nothing holds a candle to Macy's Fourth of July Spectacular — one of the country's biggest pyrotechnic performances. The event begins around 9:30 pm, with over 65,000 shells launching from five barges on the East River. Prime viewing locations includeFirst Avenue at East 20th, 34th and 42nd Streets in Manhattan, Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City, and Marsha P. Johnson State Park, Newtown Barge Park and Transmitter Park in Brooklyn.
Huntington Beach, California
When the surf capital of SoCal threw its first Fourth of July fête in 1904, there were roughly 50,000 attendees. Now, 500,000 people flock to this sunny Los Angeles suburb to participate in what's become the largest Independence Day shindig west of the Mississippi.
Visitors can partake in four days of events, including a newly-added cornhole tournament on July 1 and 2, an all-American 5K, a float-filled parade along historic Main Street, and the Pier Plaza Festival, featuring live entertainment, amusement rides, and tasty treat from an array of food vendors. The carnival climaxes on July 4th, when fireworks light up the night sky over Huntington Beach Pier at 9 pm. If you want a guaranteed spot, you can reserve one in advance for $45.
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
July 4th is a celebration of American history, and no place brings that history to life quite like Colonial Williamsburg — an authentic 18th-century town where re-enactors transport visitors back to the nation's earliest days. Start your morning listening to Thomas Jefferson read the Declaration of Independence from the Capitol building's West Balcony, then take the Freedom's Paradox tour to investigate the contradiction of American liberation and slavery.
At 8 pm, join the crowds at Palace Green for Lights of Freedom. The concert features American marching music, a patriotic sing-a-long, and selections from George Frideric Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks — a pitch-perfect accompaniment when actual fireworks go off at 9:30 pm. Palace Green and Market Square are the best spots to see the kaleidoscopic spectacle. Admission is free but book a ticket in advance.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Scenic Jackson Hole serves up Wild West Americana ideal for July 4th celebrations. The annual jamboree starts with a community pancake breakfast hosted in Town Square. A parade packed with horses, clowns, and all the trappings of a John Wayne blockbuster takes off afterward, followed by a shootout reenactment.
If you're crazed for more cowboy culture, cap the evening with an old-school rodeo at the Teton County Fairgrounds. While evening fireworks at Teton Village and Snow King Mountain are stunning, nothing beats the sun setting behind the Grand Tetons' white-capped peaks. It's arguably the nation's most magnificent light show.
Seward's fireworks don't erupt until 12:01 am because of Alaska's midnight sun, and the late-night display is almost an afterthought. In this tiny port town, the main event is the Mount Marathon Race, founded in 1915.
Every year, Seward's population balloons from 3,000 to 30,000 as spectators gather to gawk at the race, dubbed the world's most challenging 5K. Join the crowd as madcap adventurers ascend and descend a 3,022-foot peak above Resurrection Bay in the hopes of becoming the marathon's winner. The trek — which scrambles over thick roots, loose shale, and muddy waterfalls — isn't for the faint of heart, but those who compete earn a lifetime of bragging rights.
The City of Brotherly Love is where America's forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence; you better believe locals take the Fourth of July 4th seriously. The events begin on June 19th, with a series of free museum days, outdoor films, and live performances follow, leading to a holiday weekend brimming with national pride.
On July 3, join the free event to mark reopening of Carpenters’ Hall, the National Historic Landmark home of the First Continental Congress, which in 1774 laid the foundation for American independence. If patriotic songs and orchestral tunes suit your style, head to Independence Mall on July 3rd to see Vanessa Williams in concert. On July 4th, check out the “Salute To Independence Day Parade” starting at 11am. At 7 pm, the Parkway turns into an outdoor concert featuring Demi Lovato and Ludacris, followed by fireworks over the Philadelphia Museum of Art at 9:45 pm.
If you're looking for a kitschy way to celebrate small-town America, look no further than Aptos — a sleepy hamlet on the Monterey Bay known for hosting the world's shortest parade.
The route might be a mere 0.6 miles, but don't let the size fool you — this unassuming town has major stamina. Thousands of spectators visit every year, and the march lasts for a couple of hours. The festivities kick off on Soquel Drive and State Park Drive at 10 am. After the parade, make your way to Aptos Village Park, where locals lounge around ten grassy acres and celebrate all afternoon.
Music City, USA, lives up to its nickname with an action-packed holiday featuring performances by world-class musicians. Brad Paisley headlines Let Freedom Sing! Music City in Downtown Nashville, along with performances by Ben Rector, The War And Treaty, Langhorne Slim, Tiera Kennedy, and more. Head to the Food Truck Court on Rep. John Lewis Way at 5th street to taste some of the city's sweetest treats, including Moosic City ice cream, Tennessee Cobbler Co., and Kona Ice.
This Fourth of July will feature one of the largest fireworks shows in country, which synchronizes its pyrotechnics to a live performance by the Nashville Symphony.
3500 pounds of fireworks. 500,000 spectators. Everything really is bigger in Texas — particularly in this suburb north of Dallas. On July 3rd, Addison hosts Kaboom Town! — a half-hour pyro-palooza that sets the sky ablaze.
Restaurants and hotels host watch parties for out-of-towners, and the rocket's red glare is visible from almost anywhere. If you attend, be sure to stretch your neck and shoulders beforehand. A patriotic airshow precedes the main event, meaning you'll be craning your neck sky-high for most of the night.
Walk Boston's cobblestone streets, and you can't help running into Revolutionary War-era relics like Bunker Hill and the resting place of Paul Revere. This means Beantown gets a lot of Fourth of July hype — and the city lives up to expectations.
The events begin on June 30 at Downtown Crossing (DTX), where visitors can peruse an Arts and Crafts market, meet re-enactors and staff from the USS Constitution (the world's oldest floating ship), and enjoy music from the 215th Army Band. The DTX party continues on July 1st with free performances leading to the Harborfest fireworks at 9 pm.
On July 4th, follow a brief parade from City Hall Plaza to the Old State House (built in 1713), where there's a reading of the Declaration of Independence. The day ends with the Boston Pops' annual Fourth of July Spectacular, at the Hatch Memorial Shell on the Charles River Esplanade. Stick around for the rousing rendition of the 1812 Overture as cannons and fireworks light up the city.
Fire Island Pines, New York
Independence Day on Fire Island is a drag. Every summer, queens and kings of all kinds catch a ferry from Cherry Grove to the Pines, two LGBTQ+ havens off the coast of Long Island. The event, the Invasion of the Pines, commemorates the summer of 1976, when a Pines restaurant refused to serve a Cherry Grove drag queen because of their outfit. On July 4th, a group of queens 'invaded' the Pines in protest, only to be met with free drinks and admiration.
Today, hundreds of flamboyantly-dressed revelers make the same journey. Once they arrive at the Pines Marina, they strut down a red carpet and into the open arms of friendly onlookers. When the runway ends, the party continues at bars lining Harbor Walk. The event might not celebrate Independence Day, but it certainly celebrates American liberation.